A Few Words About RPG terrain

Not my usual fare about software, but nerd do nerd things.  I had a misstep with 3D printing last November, but in March I started printing PLA filament in earnest. Dungeon terrain is the reason I started.

Dwarven Forge

If you’re familiar with dungeon terrain these are probably the folks you’re most familiar with. My significant other backed several of their kickstarter campaigns, and for several hundred dollars she’s able to put together a dungeon or cavern of moderate size. Hers are pre-painted, each tile has good weight to it, there is clearly a lot of effort put into making a product that, as others have noted, can be run over by a truck then put on the table for play (don’t run over your gaming equipment).

But when they released their castle expansion I sort of put my foot down. For her to buy the pieces that would look like a castle (crenelations, portcullis, etc) she was looking at over $1000 (for the painted set). That prompted us to look into 3D printing.


From what I’ve found there are two major 3D printable terrain options: Dragonbite (Fat Dragon Games) and Openlock (Printable Scenery and several designers on Thingiverse). They work on the same basic concept – a slot in the base allows you to use a clip to hold the sections together. Despite statements about open source terrain (hence Openlock) the two systems’ clips are not compatible.


Fat Dragon Games (Dragonbite) 

These folks are known for their paper terrain. Print it out on card stock, cut out the shapes, a little Slot-A/Tab-B action and you have quick neat terrain. A couple years ago they started making 3D models and the amazing thing about these was that the bases clipped together. You could make entire dungeon levels and keep them off the table until the PCs had entered the area. When you needed it you just put the entire thing into place. This philosophy carried into the Dragonbite system.

Open Forge and Printable Scenery (Open Lock system)

It looks to me like there are two Open Lock systems, one uses clips and the other looks like it’s designed to have magnets in the bases. I appreciate that there are paid options from Printable Scenery (it looks like really nice stuff) as well as really nice models that are available for free at Thingiverse, thanks to the prolific Open Forge project. I linked specifically to Devon Jones because I’ve downloaded and printed several of his models, but searching for Open Forge at Thingiverse yields a lot of results.

Which do I prefer?

Today it’s the Open Lock style. Functionally it’s more like Dwarven Forge (which we have a fair amount of). Notice in the photos that the Open Lock tile is 2×2 and the wall attaches along the side. This is a huge benefit to me for two reasons. 1) I get the full 2×2 space for my minis, rather than having to worry about whether a party of four can fit in the corridor. 2) It’s so much easier to store! I’m really picky about my storage and have resorted to using a baseball card box to store the “L” shaped Fat Dragon tiles. The open lock tiles come apart. All the walls and floors are 2×2 and that’s a shape that is much easier to store. [edit to add: I can also mix and match the walls and floors as needed, as well as swap out. Maybe in this dungeon there’s a mystery to be had behind the crumbling wall in a dungeon that is otherwise made of carefully carved stone, but the floor doesn’t yield any clues. When the PCs find the mystery spot I can just trade piece for piece.]

Is this a fair comparison with Dwarven Forge? Didn’t you say your costs were based on painted terrain? 

I think it’s fair. The models are the same size and they are attempting to achieve the same end. Dwarven Forge has a lot more overhead, but this is what 3D printing is trying to disrupt. My overhead is the printer ($500-ish), filament ($25 for a kilogram and each model uses 20-50 gram, depending). I can print my terrain as hollow or as solid as I want. At 15% infill the printed models are definitely solid enough for tabletop use and transportation. Add extra shells (outside layers as well as top and bottom layers) and they are solid. There are 3D printing torture test videos on YouTube that demonstrate the toughness of well-printed parts.
As for painted terrain, I also caught the painting bug. The stone wall is printed from the same PLA as the wall sections but I primed it with a dark gray primer, shot it with a dark gray (almost black) “stone texture” paint and used some $1.29 craft paints to add some color to individual stones and the gate.  These are two of six stone walls and it took about 45 minutes to finish them, though when printed in gray PLA there wasn’t any need to – they would have worked just fine without painting.

So there is a quick overview of the major modular terrain options. Game on!

A Few Words About RPG terrain